May 1 has long been known as a day of celebration throughout much of Europe.
May Day, as it is sometimes called, represents the midpoint between the spring equinox and the summer solstice.
In ancient times, this day was known as the first day of summer, the festival of the goddess of flowers, Flora and Feb.1 was then the first day of spring. (This is how you end up with Midsummer’s Eve being on June 25.)
Putting up a decorated maypole was one of the customs of medieval times in many European countries. It is said to perhaps signify a reverence for trees, perhaps a pagan worshipping ritual. Or it may have been just an urge to gather and celebrate.
There are romantic notions that flowers under a girl's pillow on May 1 will allow her to dream of her mate. Young men in Germanic countries in the 16th century would place a small maypole in their favourite girl's front yard as a gesture of affection.
When I checked into all this history, I was reminded of the other meaning of this expression when the words are strung together – “mayday” is a distress signal, not in relation to the celebrations but from the French words meaning to help someone—“m’aider.”
Perhaps we could cultivate this sentiment as the growing season begins. There are many ways we can all pitch in and be neighbourly.
Thankfully, we are getting to the time of year when we can enjoy the spoils from closer to home. The Kelowna Farmer’s and Crafter’s Market is now open, and gardens are valiantly working to sprout local veggies and flowers for us to enjoy.
If you haven’t planted anything yet, it’s not too late, and especially with kids, this can be a rewarding activity.
I love gardening, as well as seasonal traditions and symbols, so I have put some Lilies of the Valley in my sensory garden out back, in keeping with the French tradition of May Day. Bouquets of these little white flowers are given to loved ones on May 1, something that began with King Charles IX when he received them as a lucky charm and passed them to the ladies at court. I highly recommend them, as their delicate scent is exquisite.
The magic of new shoots and fresh tastes is sure to inspire the spring fairies to awaken their kin and bring the spirit of summer into full regalia. If you feel the urge to dance through a field, carry on!
If you haven’t worked up the courage to dance outside yet, how about a spring recipe?
This recipe is very fresh, perfect as a dip with potato chips, or as a dressing with the first baby greens or any veggies of your choice.
Cucumber Salad Dressing
1/2 English cucumber
2/3 cup Balkan-style plain yogurt (the thick stuff)
1/4 cup sour cream (or more yogurt if you want lower fat)
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1tsp fresh lemon juice
1 green onion or a handful of garden chives, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed (optional – to your taste)
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint or basil or dill
Salt & pepper to taste, but enough
Grate your cucumber and press out the liquid in a colander. Set aside for at least 10 minutes.
In large bowl, whisk together yogurt, sour cream, and vinegar. Stir in remaining ingredients, cucumber last. Season to your taste. You can keep this in the fridge for a couple of days.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.